Benishek's Absurd Appeal to His Own Non-Existent Authority

The standard line from Republicans on global warming these days is, “Hey, I’m not a scientist, I just know some scientists dispute it.” But Dan Benishek, a Tea Party type from Northern Michigan who is also an MD, is taking the opposite line: I am a scientist and I don’t find any evidence for it.

“The climate may be changing, but I don’t think man is contributing to it,” Benishek told ABC 10′s news director Greg Peterson, according to a Tuesday report from the Michigan news station.

“I could throw some science at you,” Peterson pressed.

“Well, I am a scientist,” Benishek responded. “You know, I believe in peer-reviewed science. But, I don’t see any peer-reviewed science that proves there is man-made catastrophic climate change.”

Benishek is running for re-election in Michigan’s 1st Congressional District, which he first won in 2010. His opponent, Democratic nominee and Army veteran Jerry Cannon, has said he does believe in global warming, according to ABC 10 News.

According to his congressional website, Benishek earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Michigan back in 1974. He went on to graduate from Wayne State Medical School in 1978, and has since worked as a general surgeon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and worked part-time at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain.

So there are several problems here. First, he’s not a scientist. Getting a degree in a scientific subject 40 years ago then never practicing in the field does not make one a scientist (nor does being an MD). But even if it did, so what? Are you a scientist in a relevant field? Have you read the literature on this? Are you up to date on the climatological data and the studies that have been done on it? The answer is almost certainly no (and it’s unlikely he would be able to understand it if he had read it). This is an appeal to authority that simply doesn’t exist.

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  • John Pieret

    But he’s got a white lab coat and everything!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “But, I don’t see any peer-reviewed science that proves there is man-made catastrophic climate change.”

    Hey surgeon, did you look behind the spleen?

  • Trebuchet

    Effing doctors. At least he’s not yet another wingnut engineer.

  • Michael Heath

    Dan Benishek is my Representative. He replaced Bart Stupak. Rep. Stupak was a Democrat, he’s the guy that held the President and Congress hostage on Obamacare by supporting it, but also wanting to add language making it more difficult for women to get access to abortions. Stupak’s argument was that he following the dictates of the Catholic bishops where he also treated the nun’s perspective with disdain.

    I think Stupak was a very good representative with some exceptions, like what I mention here. Benishek is a Tea Partier who came into office the wave of tea partiers in 2010. He’s now trying to distance himself from that label while not losing that voting base – hence the AGW denialism. In his campaigns he still poses as a doctor, where he dresses in scrubs and calls himself “Dr. Dan”.

    He’s partly a typical Michigan conservative from one perspective. There has long been a wing of conservative “conservationists” in this state. They have frequently joined with liberals to protect the environment, which is one of Michigan’s most important assets, especially the Great Lakes. Rep. Benishek has done some good work on protecting the environment in some ways, but here we see him opposing mitigation on the most important environmental issue facing humanity. One of the worst aspects of conservatism taking over the GOP and the Sarah Palin mind-set being endemic is that it’s increasingly difficult for Republicans to defend the evirnonment, it’s increasingly used to argue they’re ‘no true Scotsmen conservatives’.

  • Michael Heath

    Trebuchet writes:

    Effing doctors. At least [Rep. Dan Benishek’s] not yet another wingnut engineer.

    Actually the fact he’s a doctor in his district makes it far worse. Our demographics are heavily weighted to old uneducated people, think silent generation who fell into life-time no-skill jobs right out of high school. Even the Palinites mostly treat doctors with deference here. E.g., they’re not too many anti-Vaxxers here though they are growing commensurate with Christian home schooling.

  • D. C. Sessions

    For that matter, “do you even understand the basic physics of the greenhouse effect?”

  • Michael Heath

    Rep. Benishek’s opponent just sent an email blast out labeling Benishek as a “science denier”. Of course their motivation is to leverage Benishek’s denialism and idiocy to raise money for their own campaign. I’ll bite on that.

    I’ve already given some money to the Cannon campaign given how deeply I despise “Dr. Dan” the convenient tea partier. Benishek has largely tried to avoid discussing the climate, like the vast majority of Republican politicians who want to vote the denialist ticket without having to defend their position (because they can’t).

  • colnago80

    Re Michael Heath @ #

    One of the worst aspects of conservatism taking over the GOP and the Sarah Palin mind-set being endemic is that it’s increasingly difficult for Republicans to defend the environment, it’s increasingly used to argue they’re ‘no true Scotsmen conservatives’.

    At one time, it was possible to be a conservationist and be a Rethuglican. Examples that come to mind are former Senator James Buckley, editor of the Richmond Times Dispatch James J. Kilpatrick, former Nixon aide John Ehrlichman, and often Barry Goldwater. Today, the teabaggers consider a conservationist a left wing pinko commie Muslim terrorist.

  • Richard Smith

    Dear Dr. Benishek: We’d be happy to hear all about your scientific notions about climate change, just as soon as you’ve recovered from your surgery that will be undertaken (!) by a meteorologist.

  • colnago80

    Speaking of Sarah Palin, the Palin family apparently got into a brawl last month at a party in Anchorage. In fairness, apparently she wasn’t involved but her husband and several of their children were. What I found most amusing is that, apparently, son Track tried to start a fight with his father.

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/09/politics/palin-family-brawl/

  • abb3w

    The surgeon’s hands/are lean and nimble;

    His brain would fit/inside a thimble.

    – old RN adage

  • Loqi

    Having a bachelor’s of science alone is enough to be a scientist? Well shit, apparently I’ve been a scientist all these years without even knowing it. Hmm, on which topic shall I pontificate with an unearned sense of authority first?

  • radrick11

    I’ve got a B.S. in Biology from Adrian College and a DDS form University of Detroit and I believe in climate change. Check mate.

  • raven

    “The climate may be changing, but I don’t think man is contributing to it,” Benishek …

    LOL. What an idiot.

    1. This is a climbdown!!! Heresy!!! The Koch’s are shocked. They paid all this money and got some guy who can’t even follow a 3 X 5 cue card.

    They usually just flat out deny that global warming/sea level rise is occurring. If you are going to lie, in for a penny, in for a pound.

    2. They didn’t ask him why the climate is changing if it isn’t man caused CO2 elevations.

    That is always good for a laugh. Usually they mutter something about sunspots or the sun getting hotter.

  • raven

    U.S. East Coast Cities Face Frequent Flooding Due to …

    www. citylab. com/weather/2014/10/us…coast…flooding…to…/381257/

    2 days ago – Cities on America’s East Coast could see triple the number of tidal floods by … The frequency of those floods will worsen over time, the researchers said.

    1. The adults are moving beyond climate denialists. Because they have to.

    2. We are already seeing problems from sea level rise. Which is just getting started. Ironically, a lot of areas with tidal flooding problems are in GOP areas, the southeastern coastline and Louisiana.

    3. And we are already dealing with them. Raising roads, sea walls. Louisiana has a $50 billion project to fix their disappearing coastline.

  • Trebuchet

    @15: Except in North Carolina, where sea level rise has been outlawed.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Loqi #12: Having a bachelor’s of science alone is enough to be a scientist? …

    It’s worse. A quick search on Benishek reveals the name of his spouse.

    This guy’s not even a bachelor!

  • Georgia Sam

    I know this is just a testimonial/anecdotal statement, but I have worked on research projects with a few MDs, and in my experience an MD degree doesn’t mean the person knows anything about research methods. More often than not, those that do understand how research is done have PhDs in addition to MDs. And, of course, even that does not give them an understanding of climatology.

  • Lofty

    I have a B.S. in BS

  • krubozumo

    (Sigh) – there is so much wrong here that it is tempting to leave it to some Freshman Science Fair project to explain to the demented congressman what the evidence is, and the consensus among climate scientists on what that evidence means and the consensus among those in many other disciplines on what the consequences will be if we ignore the changes that are occurring and accelerating.

    If the congressman want’s to “see the evidence” he first has to open his eyes and then look at it. I’d suggest he start with the google/scholar and just do a couple of superficial searches. To avoid a too burdensome demand some suggestions: try “climate change”, “atmospheric CO2”, “Sea Level Rise”, Ocean Acidification”, and so on. Then have an aide trot over to the LOC and photocopy a few hundred of the pulications found for him to read. While doing so he can scrutinize the citations in those papers and gradually build up a matrix of publications extending back at least to the 1960s or so . Papers available should number in the thousands. I hope he is a fast reader. Somehow I doubt it though so once again resort to your aides and have them do the heavy lifting. Oh wait, that is an unhelpful suggestion because if he were to do so he would no longer be able to claim that he hadn’t seen any evidence.

    I also like the use of the weasle word “proof”. I am assuming that is BS (irony there) degree in biology did not expose him much to the rigorous standards of mathematical “proofs” which are generally unavailable to any other branch of science since we lack such key elements as axioms.

    I realize it is pointless to argue this subject against the obstinate foolishness and stupidity of people who stand to gain materially from the former traits.

    But it should be clearly said that they do so because they will profit by their obstruction. The carbon interests depend upon us burning their assets as fuel for the foreseeable future. If we, on a population scale stop doing that, their assets will become increasingly worthless.

    We should note that if ocean acidification continues apace, the phytoplankton that do most of the photosynthesis that releases free oxygen for us to breath will eventually suffer a mass die off. Then the oligarchs can sell us oxygen to breath. The same is true with potable water for domestic use and agriculture. They have already made strong inroads into those areas. But the real question is can they deliver? And the answer is no. So that recalls the use of the term catastrophic by the dear congressman. Just as he had no conception of the reality of our climate problem, he has even less idea of what a global catastrophe would be like.

    Nature is utterly indifferent to wishes, hopes and faith.

    Fare thee well travellers….

  • iknklast

    I have a Ph.D. in environmental science, and continue to work in the field, and I say Banishek is totally full of it!

  • parasiteboy

    Are you a scientist in a relevant field?

    I have a problem with this line of reasoning. There are actually very few scientist (out of all the research scientist in the world) that study climate. This type of argument would invalidate the statements of large scientific organizations, like the Ecological Society of America, that have put out statements affirming that global warming is occurring because they are “not a scientist in the relevant field”. There are many in that society and others societies that affirm global warming and will have scientist working on how ecosystems may change due to climate change, but they themselves are not climate scientist.

    This also bothers since I teach at a college level and several classes that I teach (biology classes) touch on global warming. Any of my students and myself (along with everyone here) would not be able to argue that APG is occurring on the science, because “we are not scientist in the relevant field” and all we would be able to do is appeal to the scientific consensus.

    Have you read the literature on this? Are you up to date on the climatological data and the studies that have been done on it? The answer is almost certainly no

    This is a valid question. There are only two possibilities when he says

    “You know, I believe in peer-reviewed science. But, I don’t see any peer-reviewed science that proves there is man-made catastrophic climate change.”

    Either he hasn’t actually read the literature or he is lying.

    (and it’s unlikely he would be able to understand it if he had read it).

    If he made it through medical school he should be able to understand it, it’s not rocket surgery. There really is no need for the ad hominem on his intelligence, just call him a willfully ignorant asshat, because that’s what you have to be if you do not think that the current science confirms AGW.

  • John Pieret

    parasiteboy:

    Any of my students and myself (along with everyone here) would not be able to argue that APG is occurring on the science, because “we are not scientist in the relevant field” and all we would be able to do is appeal to the scientific consensus.

    I understand your concern but I think it is misplaced. If Benishek was arguing about the science, then anyone can argue back. But here he is claiming false authority to avoid arguing the science. If you were to say: “I am a college biology professor and I can tell you that AGW is definitely happening” anyone could rightfully ask why they should accept your “authoritative” pronouncement on it. Of course, just because someone has degrees in relevant science doesn’t mean that anyone should take their pronouncements on face value either. But when a blowhard, particularly a congresscritter, starts spouting opinions about AGW, his qualifications are a reasonable initial inquiry.

  • Kimpatsu

    Ed, I present you British humour on the subject:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SddhsAi0KK8

  • caseloweraz

    From the interview:

    “The climate may be changing, but I don’t think man is contributing to it,” Benishek told ABC 10′s news director Greg Peterson, according to a Tuesday report from the Michigan news station.

    “I could throw some science at you,” Peterson pressed.

    “Well, I am a scientist,” Benishek responded. “You know, I believe in peer-reviewed science. But, I don’t see any peer-reviewed science that proves there is man-made catastrophic climate change.”

    I read this as Benishek shifting the goal posts. His last statement is nominally true, because there is nothing that proves there is “man-made catastrophic climate change” (which should be understood to imply imminent catastrophe.)

    Of course, no one claims that climate catastrophe is imminent. But Denialists like Benishek love to allege the claim is being made. It’s a tactic of distraction.